Whether you have noticed the announcements or not, our annual Best of Tahoe contest will commence this coming Monday, April 2. While there has been mention of change for this year, I wanted to explain this in more detail.

To many businesses (and people), winning Best of Tahoe is a big deal. It should be a big deal. It's a great distinction to be voted on as the best in their area of business. So this year we're going to give it the attention it deserves. Not just during the voting and announcing the winners, but also year-round — more to come on that in the coming months.

We always make the announcement over the weekend for Fourth of July. This gives the winners the biggest visitor audience to announce to and hopefully drive some awareness and traffic their way over the holiday. This year, we thought it would be fun to invite the locals ahead of this weekend and announce the winners locally so that there's time to enjoy before all hell breaks loose. Mark your calendars for June 28 — more to come on this in the coming months as well.

Given the recent expansion of the Tribune into the North Shore, the mention also was made to open this up to the entire Tahoe Basin. While the Best of Tahoe name suggests this, in years past we've stuck mainly to the South Shore, letting our sister outlets handle the north. This has caused some slight confusion over the years, but the hope here is that we can reach a point where this event is widespread and winning in a category makes it that much more special.

This brings me to a change that appears to be somewhat controversial. In years past all of the nominations and voting took place over the course of four to six weeks. This year we are breaking that into two parts — a nomination period over four weeks and a true voting period over two weeks. I have explained this to several businesses over the past couple weeks and I have had good feedback as well as feedback stating it is a terrible idea. Let me explain.

One of the biggest reasons for this is to try and level the playing field. I've had several business owners tell me that sometimes the outcomes raise credibility issues. How many times have you seen a winner that you feel has no business winning? Or as a business, what if you get a late start on hearing about the contest? What this process is designed to do is come out of the nominations with a handful of worthy entries in each category that the community can then vote on as the best.

The nomination process is strictly a write-in process. No longer do you have to slog through 30 or so entries in over 100 categories to find what you're looking for. The user experience is easier to navigate and asks much less of the voter, while at the same time, we are able to heighten our ability to detect fraud.

"Who has the time or would be willing to vote twice?"

This is one of the objections staring us straight in the face.

I have four kids who are all active and a demanding job. I understand not having enough time. Regardless of this, everyone struggles with time in today's world. There's simply not enough time to do what we need to get done. Even if the voting were the same as previous years, time would still be an issue. The plan is to keep this top of mind as much as possible during the process and remind folks that when you are able to nominate and vote, it's there for you at any time of the day (or night).

"What about our visitors who place nominations? They surely won't come back to vote."

This is perhaps the toughest objection to overcome — I get it.

You take the time and effort to get them to nominate while in market, but it doesn't count as a vote to win. We do have the ability to target in-market voters and out-of-market voters differently. So the messaging in how we do this will reflect how we approach each audience. Plus, we also will be enticing people to come back and vote with a substantial prize that they can win by voting — because who doesn't want to win something for free?

I could have easily doubled the length of this column to go into more detail about the changes. The above is a general idea of the "why" and "how," and hopefully you can get a sense of the changes for this year.

In the end, it really is designed to support the businesses within the community and bring a greater emphasis to an award that should be celebrated — and not just once over the course of a year.

If you have questions or comments about this, hit me up. I'd be happy to discuss. In the meantime, good luck to everyone.

Publisher Rob Galloway can be reached at rgalloway@tahoedailytribune.com or 530-542-8046.